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Cycle Through the New Greenville

With a growing food scene, a creative DIY spirit, and a serious cycling culture, this once-sleepy southern town has reinvented itself as an exciting destination.


Where to Stay

Cozy up in cycling-themed digs at the Swamp Rabbit Inn, a newly opened property that’s just steps from the Swamp Rabbit Trail and a short walk to downtown. Owner and bike enthusiast Wendy Lynam transformed a run-down home into a cheery, entirely Ikea-designed six-room B&B (from $110), with animal-themed rooms (the Double Owl, the Sheep), a spacious, well-stocked kitchen where guests can cook their own meals (breakfast foods like eggs, bagels, and fruit are provided), and an on-site bike shop complete with rentals (four hours, $15) and Greenville-themed gear. Prepare to leave addicted to the Danish kringle that Lynam ships in from a bakery in her Wisconsin hometown and keeps stocked in the kitchen.


Park your two wheels at the sunnily appointed Swamp Rabbit Inn.  

Relax in luxurious, European-inspired style at Hotel Domestique (from $295). The gorgeous property — the vision of 17-time Tour de France competitor George Hincapie (who’s occasionally around to join guests on rides) — evokes an elegant Tuscan villa, with a serene outdoor fountain, a sophisticated library stocked with design tomes, and palatial rooms with fireplaces, four-poster beds, and Hermès toiletries. The onsite Restaurant 17 is a destination for locals, with a Mediterranean-leaning menu and hyperlocal ingredients: Try the smoked-rainbow-trout spread ($8) and the bacon-wrapped saddle of rabbit ($28). For a more laid-back post-ride bite, grab a beer and a burger ($17) at the hotel’s Bar 17.

Bring your pup along for a stay at brand-new Aloft Greenville (from $197). The ecofriendly property has a clean design aesthetic — a punchy color palette, sleek white bathrooms, and ceramic fireplaces in common areas — and dog-friendly amenities available upon check-in, like a dog bed, bowl, and treats. In warmer weather, venture up to the rooftop pool for lounging with a view of downtown (to really feel like an A-lister, request a cabana room that opens on the pool). At night, check out the W XYZ Bar, with a chic backlit indoor bar and trendy outdoor space with couches for mingling while a local DJ spins.

Where to Eat

Asheville favorite Biscuit Head brings its gargantuan baked goods to Greenville.  

Sample the fusion of Spanish and southern flavors at the Lazy Goat. The bustling open kitchen turns out savory small plates and tapas like goat-cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers with pine nuts and basil-mint pesto ($10), roasted mussels with chorizo ($13), and mer blanc ($27), a mix of Israeli couscous and seafood in a creamy vodka broth, but save room for the “lazy” paella made with shellfish and sofrito broth and homemade pastas like the black-pepper tagliatelle ($21). If the weather’s nice, grab a table outdoors steps from the Reedy River, flowing right through downtown.

Support the pioneers of Greenville’s culinary renaissance at American Grocery Restaurant. Chef Joe Clarke’s inventive dishes pay homage to his southern roots, while his wife, sommelier Darlene Mann-Clarke, has developed one of the city’s best small-estate wine lists. Start with a flight of rosés ($14) from Portugal, Provence, and Argentina, paired with the highly addictive Sriracha-honey fried chicken skins ($5) and fried deviled eggs ($3), then dig into heartier plates like braised tongue with charred onion spaetzl ($28) or confit of local rabbit ($28). Linger in the warmly rustic space with a well-crafted cocktail: The Pig on the Porch ($9) is made with bacon-infused bourbon and ginger ale, then appropriately garnished with a pork rind.

Try imaginative sandwiches with northern and southern inspiration. At Sully’s Steamers, owner Robert Sullivan uses a steaming technique to make soft, piping-hot bagels in classic and less-traditional flavors (French toast!), topped in dozens of cheekily named meat and veggie combos. Keep an eye out for the highly anticipated opening of Biscuit Head, scheduled for early spring. The breakfast-and-lunch spot is already beloved in Asheville for its indulgent sandwiches — try the mimosa fried chicken biscuit ($8), with sweet-potato butter, Sriracha slaw, and a poached egg — and southern sides with a twist (think Sriracha maple sausage and smoked chevre grits).

What to Do

The scenic Swamp Rabbit Trail, following an old rail line, makes for a perfect day ride.  

Immerse yourself in Greenville’s expanding arts scene, starting at Arts Crossing, a riverfront stretch of galleries showcasing local artists’ work. Andrew Wyeth aficionados will love the Greenville County Museum of Art, which houses the world’s largest collection of the renowned painter’s watercolors. A short drive from downtown, the Greenville Center for Creative Arts, which opened in May 2015 in a historic cotton factory, anchors the burgeoning arts district of the Village of West Greenville. Run by New York transplant and Greenville native Cherington Love Shucker, the center houses an art school and gallery: Check out the Asian-inspired, wood-fired teapots and cups created by Shucker’s husband, ceramicist Darin Gehrke. In the evening, make a trip to the 2,100-seat Peace Center; it once housed a textile plant and mayonnaise factory and today is home to hundreds of performances, from Diana Ross and Rosanne Cash concerts to Broadway shows.

Cruise along the nearly 20-mile mixed-use Swamp Rabbit Trail. The trail — which follows a former railroad line whose train was nicknamed the Swamp Rabbit, after the way it “hopped” along the bumpy tracks — has helped transform Greenville into a cycling destination. Rent a bike from Reedy Rides ($20 for four hours) and cruise a few miles before picking up snacks at the Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery; the made-from-scratch scones go fast (try the iced-tea flavor; from $2). Then pedal alongside kudzu- and wisteria-lined trees, former textile factories, and the scenic campus of Furman University. If you’ve got the energy, head all the way to the bucolic town of Traveler’s Rest, about nine miles away.

Admire the talent of Greenville’s growing ranks of artisans and entrepreneurs, starting with two denim dynamos. Billiam Jeans has attracted a cult following since opening in 2010 for its custom jeans, some made with recycled materials, all for a good cause (20 percent of profits go to fighting sex-trafficking); Beija-Flor offers styles with a “perfect fit” policy, inspired by the owners’ travels to Brazil. Stop by Lily Pottery to browse the ceramic-and-metal jewelry creations, from colorful rings to statement necklaces. And in the Village of West Greenville, stock up on hand-made artisan pasta — the spinach-and-artichoke ravioli is a favorite – at Naked Pasta.

Expert’s Tips

Mingle with the locals at Greenville's first rooftop bar, Sip.  

From Robin Bylenga, owner of Pedal Chic, the first women-centric bicycling shop in the country.

I love eclectic, locally owned places, and I love the chance to sit outside. So naturally one of my favorite places is Sip, Greenville’s first rooftop bar. It has beautiful white and rattan couches and dozens of wines by the glass. You can sit outside and look over our beautiful downtown Main Street.

After a bike ride, when you’re in need of a pint, the Velo Fellow is a great place to go. The décor is vintage and rustic, with an old penny-farthing bike on the wall. They have English pub-style fare, handmade by the chef every day. They do a really good chicken salad.

Café at Williams Hardware is a former hardware store that’s now a café, and it was the first café on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. It’s a great place to park your bike and fuel up over some home-cooked southern dishes. Their homemade soups and desserts are fabulous, especially their coconut cake.

In the spring, our shop does rides at night during the week, and there’s so much live music going on downtown that offers a perfect way to wrap up the ride. On Wednesday nights, there’s live music and performances on the river. On Thursdays from spring through summer, there’s Downtown Alive, which draws a younger crowd, and on Friday nights, there’s more live music with Main Street Fridays. There’s almost always something going on in terms of outdoor entertainment and music.

Resources

Get inspired for your visit with Greenville’s Über-popular social-media hashtag, #yeahTHATgreenville, which locals and visitors use alongside tidbits about restaurant openings, events, and brag-worthy photos from around town.

Dig into the arts and culture scene in Greenville with Fete, an online magazine–multimedia site dedicated to music, events, and other happenings around town.

Find plenty of vetted options for dining, events, and other local happenings with Town Carolina, a digital magazine and online publication that covers the Greenville scene.


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